Too Cool for Umbrellas

When you live in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, it’s impossible to know what to wear on a given day. In Calgary you can wake up to 10 cm of fresh snow, eat lunch amid a hail storm, and drive home with your windows open wishing you’d worn flip flops to work. There’s a saying that if you don’t like the weather in Calgary, just wait five minutes. And on most days that’s fairly accurate. I can’t image being a weather forecaster here because the odds of you being correct for an entire day are about as good as you winning a Lotto 649 jackpot.

So as you can imagine, Calgarians are used to dressing in layers and preparing for all four seasons to bombard us within a 24 hour time period. Our closets and cars are filled with mittens, scarves, earmuffs, snow boots, blankets, jackets, sweaters, and a number of other items used to save us from the elements.

The image below gives you an idea of what the weather was like in Calgary today. For context, please note that this morning the streets were completely clean, and the grass was just starting to turn green…


But there’s one weather-related item that we don’t tend to cart around most of year, and that’s an umbrella. For some reason, it is socially unacceptable to walk around in the snow with an umbrella. Although I’ve really only thought about this while in Calgary, I’m fairly confident this is a Canada-wide phenomenon.

If you stop to think about it, that’s a bit bizarre. Both rain and snow make your clothes wet, get in your eyes, ruin your hair, and so. But I would never ever use an umbrella in the snow. And yes, I do realize snow has the potential to ruin an umbrella faster than rain, as the former can weigh more than the later. But just because something has potential, that doesn’t mean it has to be realized.

What got me thinking about this was that Calgary was forecasted to have a huge amount of rainfall this afternoon. Not wanting to get soaked on my way out of work, I pulled my massive umbrella out of my car’s trunk and lugged it to my desk in preparation. When the rain turned to sleet this afternoon, I only contemplated using the umbrella for a split second before completely dismissing the idea. Even though the precipitation was more on the rain side of the equation, there was no freakin way I would be caught in public using an umbrella.

I was totally soaked by the time I got to my car, of course.

So what’s the deal with Canadians only using umbrellas in the rain? I have seen people from other cultures using umbrellas during all types of weather (snow included), which makes me assume this aversion is a Canada quirk.

If you have any ideas/observations/rants/wild guesses about cross-cultural umbrella usage, I’d love to hear them!

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